I have never been a fan of werewolf movies.
Movies like The Howling and An American Werewolf In London did little for me, even though I acknowledge the greatness of both. There’s something distinctly not terrifying about vampires and werewolves to me and I don’t know why.
Dog Soldiers didn’t scare me, but I did enjoy it very much. It’s not a complex story; a group of soldiers is conducting a training exercise in the Scottish Highlands when they stumble upon a special-ops group headed by a dark and sinister man that’s come under attack by werewolves. After being somehow rescued by an errant female passerby, the remaining soldiers manage to hole up in an abandoned farmhouse deep in the middle of nowhere, making one last stand against the werewolves.
The most famous faces in the cast are Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd. Poor Sean Pertwee. I always, always forget Sean Pertwee, even though I genuinely like him in the movies he’s been in and can recognize his name on a DVD box and associate it with good things. I even had to Google image search him, the poor fellow. Mr. Pertwee, you have my apologies.
Kevin McKidd I vaguely remember as Tommy from Trainspotting and to his credit, he’s nothing like I remembered.
I think the best thing about Dog Soldiers and what will divide people on the movie most is the lack of CGI. There’s something to be said for having lifelike action going on without computers having to animate every last frame, and while the werewolves can come off as plastic or cheesy sometimes, they do seem a formidable, realistic set of foes to have.
The biggest credit goes to Neil Marshall, the director, who I have to say turned something that plot-wise, would have otherwise been a fairly unremarkable film. This movie is, if memory serves me correctly, pretty bland on the structure in every way, shape and form. Soldiers go out into the forest for a training exercise and muck around; a second convoy is attacked and the soldiers themselves are attacked; they are picked up by a lady in an SUV and haul ass to a local farmhouse, where they put up an excellent fight, but each member is picked off, one by one; a third-act twist comes into play and we get the finale of the film. There is nothing new, inventive or anything that hasn’t been predictably well-tread in the basic form and function of the movie.
The ending twist isn’t a shock. If you’ve watched one horror movie with a twist, then you will see this one coming a mile away. I found myself picking up on it and then easing myself into the mentality of “Lord, this is gonna suck”. I’m not really sure where credit goes that it doesn’t suck, other than Neil Marshall. Your attention is kept all throughout the movie, even at the somewhat weak parts, and the ending is as satisfying an ending you can wish for. This is the movie that Neil Marshall used to land The Descent, which I personally feel is a far stronger film than this, but hey – Dog Soldiers is a great starting point, as far as they go.
Miscellaneous bits on Dog Soldiers:
- Watching Kevin McKidd stuff Sean Pertwee’s guts back inside him was potentially one of the awesomest things I have seen in cinema ever.
- Watching Sean Pertwee look at his own intestines and squeal “Sausages!” is…brilliant.
- If there are indeed Scottish soldiers running about that look like Kevin McKidd, I am moving to the Middle of Nowhere, Scotland, UK, effective immediately. Damn. Ladies, ladies, ladies: if you want some unadulterated, totally shameless eye candy in a horror movie, this one is a good one to watch.
- In one scene, a character mentions that the nearest town is “four hours away”. Not to go all Ignorant American on you, but does it take you four hours to drive anywhere in Scotland? I mean, ANYWHERE? Scotland doesn’t seem small, but it seems to me to not be excessively large, either.
- Werewolves are hideous and apparently, bipedal.
- Note to self: Never buy big farmhouse in the middle of the Scottish Highlands that is surrounded by trees, trees and more trees. Unless, of course, Kevin McKidd is living with you and bringing his army gear along.
- Neil Marshall has now made two movies that I’ve enjoyed, so the next, Neil, I’ll see no questions asked. Welcome to the exclusive club of People Whose Movies Caitlin Will Watch Without Asking Questions. Congratulations, your official club card is in the mail.